Discarded basketballs have been transformed into works of art at Lisbon's Underdog Gallery. Twelve artists have approached the transformation in various ways, from painting the balls directly to completely dismantling them and using them as a sculptural material, or including them in large-scale installations or audiovisual material. Moreover, the whole project has a charitable overlap, the gallery offers the art pieces for sale with the proceeds going towards the restoration of neglected basketball courts.
The Art Dunk exhibition presents the diverse works of twelve contemporary artists whose distinctive styles interpret used basketballs from the Betclic Portuguese basketball league. The concept of the project gives each artist free reign, so sometimes the resulting artworks have strayed far from the ball’s original shape. The individual artists use different techniques and materials to present innovative visions of this common piece of sports equipment, giving the ordinary ball a new conceptual meaning.
Diverse Approaches: from Cheerful Basketballs to Multimedia Installations
For some artists, the ball served as a canvas for colourful creations and fun images while others deformed it and used it in unexpected contexts. In certain works, the ball became the material for sculptures. Some artists have even embarked on making larger-scale works combining the balls with their own paintings and other objects to form entire installations. This way, the basketballs have been turned into foxes, sports shoes and even complex multimedia installations.
Among the participating contemporary artists from the Iberian Peninsula were Lisbon street artists Jaqueline Arashida and Bruno Gonçalves, nicknamed Confeere, who turned the basketballs into a relief depicting classic basketball shoes. Filippo Fiumani incorporated video projections in his multimedia work, while Maria Imaginário chose to draw attention to women's sports. Mariana Miserável's work uses her typical cynical humour and quotes verses from the pop song Amor D'Água Fresca.
Tiago Evangelista gave the basketballs the faces of famous characters and Vai Dar Pitanga transformed them through vibrant colours and texture. Lisbon-based graffiti artist Helio Bray, graphic designer João Varela, and illustrator and muralist Kruella d'Enfer also presented their creative vision. Other submissions included, for example, painter Tamara Alves, whose portraits find their way on canvas and even buildings, and graffiti and street art duo going by the name Ruído. The resulting exhibition presents a diverse collection of distinctive artworks.
The Social and Ecological Dimension of Used Basketball Artworks
According to professional competition regulations, basketballs have to be replaced every year, creating a large amount of sports waste. Reusing them not only eliminates waste and helps the environment, but can also lead to developing and promoting creative and social projects. Basketball is well suited for this non-traditional approach because it is a sport originating from the street, linking it to different subcultures and their art.
In collaboration with the Betclic League, the Underdogs Gallery project combines sport, art and social outreach in the form of a charity sale, the proceeds of which go towards the renovation of public sports venues. "We believe that creating a positive impact through sport is very important. Doing this through circular economy projects that link culture and sport makes sense to us," confirmed Pureza Sousa from Betclic's Portuguese office. Among the project’s benefits, she highlights environmentalism, public space revitalisation and promoting art.
The public got to see the artworks for the first time on May 8th at the Liga Betclic Basketball Awards. At the end of June, the transformed basketballs were presented in a free exhibition at the Cais do Sodré station in Lisbon. All the works are available for purchase on the project's website.
A Joint Project between the Lisbon Gallery and a Circular Incubator founded by a Bookmaker Company
Behind the Art Dunk exhibition stands the Betclic Collective, an incubator of circular economy projects looking at sport’s positive social impact, partnering with entities from various fields, including fashion, music and the visual arts. The project was founded by Betclic, an online bookmaker company.
The project is curated by Underdogs, a cultural platform based in Lisbon, Portugal, which operates a gallery with two exhibition spaces. They support experimental art projects and run a public art programme focused on the visual representation of urban environments and landscapes. In this way, the gallery encourages the development of close relationships between artists, the public and the city.